If you think the 2018 elections are a year away, think again.
They’ve already begun, and they’re going to start heating up.
The race to replace retiring County Judge Van Russell has been well underway for several months, with two high profile Apalachicola attorneys already campaigning for the non-partisan seat.
Both Barbara Sanders, 63, of St. George Island, and Jay Gordon Shuler, 56, of Apalachicola, have been stocking their war chests for the battle ahead by doing two things, filing a notice of intent to run and establishing a political action committee.
Sanders, whose campaign treasurer is law partner Donna Duncan, has so far raised $17,225, with a portion of it, $7,275, collected for her political action committee, the Committee to Elect Barbara Sanders.
Shuler, whose campaign treasurer is accountant Paul Marxsen, has raised $4,550 so far, and while he has set up a political action committee, the Committee to Elect Jay Gordon Shuler, no money has yet been raised for that committee.
Florida statute stipulates that an individual can contribute no more than $1,000 to any candidate who is running for county judge, as well as any constitutional officer, county commissioner or school board member.
When Russell’s term expires Jan. 8, 2019, the judge will have been on the bench for 30 years. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Emory University and his juris doctorate from Florida State University, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1979.
First elected in Nov. 1988, Russell, 70, was unopposed for reelection in every subsequent election.
The only other contest so far to have attracted candidates is the non-partisan race for school board for District 4, which covers the historic district of Apalachicola as well as much of the outlying area.
Incumbent Stacy Kirvin, 55, has signaled his intent to seek reelection, and has contributed a little over $64 of his own money for his campaign, for which he is serving as treasurer. Christy Joy Thompson, 40, has filed her intent to challenge him for the seat, but has yet to raise any funds. Her campaign’s treasurer is Kristy Branch Banks.
While he has yet to formally announce his candidacy, incumbent tax collector Rick Watson, appointed in April by Gov. Rick Scott to succeed Jimmy Harris, is widely expected to run this year, to complete the final two years of the term Harris was elected to without opposition in 2016. It is possible Watson could face a challenge in a Republican primary Aug. 28, but no names have yet surfaced.
In addition, while she has not yet filed a letter to intent, Teresa Ann Martin, a longtime employee in the tax collector’s office, is widely expected to declare her intention to challenge Watson as a Democrat. It is also possible that other Democrats will step forward, setting up a primary battle.
In the event Martin decides to run for tax collector, she would have to step down from her District 3 school board seat no later than 10 days before the June 18 start of qualifying week. Since this would be more than 28 months before the end of her term in Nov. 2020, there would be a special election to elect a successor to fill out the remainder of the term.
The incumbents in three other offices up for grabs in November, District 2 county commissioner Cheryl Sanders and school board members Pam Marshall, as well as District 4 county commissioner Smokey Parrish, have yet to announce their intentions. Nor have any challengers emerged, either Democrat or Republican.
As of Jan. 2, 4,139, or 54.1 percent of Franklin County’s 7,645 registered voters were registered as Democrats, with another 32 percent, or 2,450, registered as Republicans. The remaining 13.8 percent, or 1,056 voters, are registered either with a minor party or without party affiliation.